Coiffed, in a crisp blue suit, gesticulating and speaking about his love for the administration, the president, the president’s agenda and the president’s alleged ability to throw a sweet football spiral, Anthony Scaramucci did his best on Friday to signal that a new era of the White House press office had begun.
“I want to thank personally Sean Spicer,” Scaramucci said at the beginning of his first press conference as White House communications director. “I love the guy and I wish him well, and I hope he goes on to make a tremendous amount of money.”
Scaramucci, a former Wall Street financier, mentioned his own business experience several times during the press conference, and was quick to dismiss any suggestion from reporters that Donald Trump’s presidency is somehow off course.
“I think the ship is going in the right direction. We’ve just got to radio-signal the direction clearly,” Scaramucci said. “I love the president and I’m, very, very loyal to the president.”
Trump shook up his beleaguered press team on Friday, appointing Scaramucci, a close ally of his in recent months, to the post he now holds. The move was reportedly what led White House press secretary Sean Spicer to resign Friday after just six months on the job.
Spicer isn’t alone in his disapproval of Scaramucci. Spicer’s deputy, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, as well as White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon all reportedly opposed Scaramucci’s appointment, multiple outlets reported Friday. But the president’s daughter Ivanka, his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross were supportive of the appointment, according to The New York Times.
So who is Anthony Scaramucci, and why did Trump select him for the role?
The 53-year-old Harvard Law graduate is a former Goldman Sachs banker, a longtime Republican donor and a Trump campaign loyalist who was part of the president’s transition team.
Scaramucci was previously said to have been tapped for a different role in the administration, within the White House’s public liaison office. But that appointment was sidelined, in part, over potential ethical conflicts related to the sale, which had not yet been completed, of SkyBridge Capital, an asset-management business he founded, to a division of a Chinese conglomerate. Instead Scaramucci took a job as senior vice president and chief strategy officer for the U.S. Export-Import Bank.
He was recently at the center of controversy after CNN was forced to retract a story about his alleged connections to a Russian bank. Three of the journalists who worked on the article resigned. Following the retraction, Scaramucci said CNN did the “right thing,” declaring: “Apology accepted.” But the episode also got the attention of the president, who tweeted in celebration of the retraction.
Scaramucci has also become a vocal defender of the president on cable news ― but that wasn’t always the case.
In August 2015, before it was clear Trump would emerge as the Republican nominee for president and win the election, Scaramucci called Trump “another hack politician” during a Fox Business Network segment in which Trump criticized hedge fund managers.
Scaramucci called Trump’s criticisms “anti-American” and “very, very divisive.” He also predicted Trump would lose the election.
“I’ll tell you who he’s going to be president of ― the Queens County bullies association,” Scaramucci said then. “You’re an inherited-money dude from Queens County. Bring it. This sort of nonsense is going to cause him to eventually implode. Bashing the hedge fund community is right out of the Elizabeth Warren playbook. Are you a Democratic plant for Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren?”
When a panelist reacted to Scaramucci’s criticism, saying she didn’t like the way Trump talked about women, he agreed.
“I don’t like the way he talks about women, I don’t like the way he talks about our friend Megyn Kelly... He’s got a big mouth,” Scaramucci said.
He has also voiced opinions on policy that appear to run counter to those of the president. In 2013, Scaramuci called Mitt Romney a “true statesman” for saying that Russia was a legitimate threat to American interests. Trump has favored a warmer relationship with Russia, despite an ongoing investigation into allegations that the Russian government meddled in the 2016 election.
More recently, Scaramucci has apparently fallen in line with the president’s wild theories on various issues.
In 2016, Scaramucci tweeted, “The fact many people still believe [climate change] is a hoax is disheartening.” Later that year, though, he appeared to backtrack, saying “there are scientists that believe that [climate change] is not happening.” Though the vast majority of climate scientists insist climate change is real and caused by human activities, Trump and many other elected Republicans claim global warming is a “hoax.”
In February, during a wave of bomb threats against Jewish community centers and day schools across the country, Trump floated an unfounded theory that the threats may have been committed “to make others look bad.” On that same day, Scaramucci implied in a tweet that Democrats may have been behind the threats.
And at Friday’s White House presser, when asked about the president’s false claim that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election, Scaramucci said: “If the president says it... my guess is there’s probably some level of truth to that.”
Scaramucci also speaks about the president not unlike how Trump speaks about himself.
“He’s the most competitive person I’ve ever met,” Scaramucci said Friday. “I’ve seen this guy throw a dead spiral through a tire. I’ve seen him at Madison Square Garden with a topcoat on, he’s standing in the key and he’s hitting foul shots and swishing them. He sinks three-foot putts. I don’t see this guy as a guy that’s ever under siege. The president’s a winner and what we’re going to do is we’re going to do a lot of winning.”
This article has been updated with details from Friday’s press conference.